Boris Johnson’s announcement last week that five Type 31e frigates are to be ordered is welcome. But we must not delude ourselves that this will resolve the problem of the lack of frigates in the Royal Navy’s inventory.
The Royal Navy currently has thirteen frigates, all of the Type 23 variant. Designed to have a 25-year life, considerable sums have been spent upgrading their capabilities and extending their lives. In 2023, aged 34, they start leaving the navy at the rate of one a year. The first of the five new T31e frigates should start sea trials in 2023, although this seems doubtful. So, in four years' time, instead of having thirteen working frigates, the number will fall to twelve until the new ships enter service after successful sea trials.